Top publisher slams Google for running racket

The man behind some of Europe’s best-selling newspapers, Mathias Döpfner, has accused Google of running a protection racket as it tries to build a digital “superstate”.

Döpfner, who is the chief executive of Europe’s largest newspaper publisher, has a lot of reasons to hate the internet. The Web killed off print media’s dominance of the news and hence Döpfner’s own concern. But in an open letter in the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he said that Google was abusing its monopolistic position in the digital market.

He said that in less reputable circles Google would be described as “a protection racket” by discriminating against competitors in search rankings. The search engine operates its “global net-monopoly” under a philosophy of “if you don’t want us to finish you off, you better pay”.

Döpfner warned that he and his business had become unhealthily dependent on Google and its ability to drive huge amounts of traffic towards or away from sites. He said that the industry was dependant on Google and at the same time is afraid of it.

He is worried about recent high-profile acquisitions like robot-manufacturer Boston Dynamics, and last week’s buy of drone satellite company Titan Aerospace, could allow Google to create a “digital super-state”.

Google concerns itself with all the different facets of our professional and private lives, in the house, in the car, in our healthcare, and in robotics, he said.

“It [Google] affects our values, our humanity, our society and the world – from our perspective, especially the future of Europe.”

Google CEO Larry Page “dreams of a world with no data protection laws and without democratic accountability,” where Google can act with impunity, Döpfner said

“Google plans in all seriousness to create a digital superstate,” he wrote, adding sarcastically that in the supranational entity Google is set to become, “they will only do good, of course, and ‘won’t do evil'”.

Döpfner said his comments were not part of a “Luddite conspiracy theory” because criticism of Google should not be seen as slamming the internet.

“Those who are interested in a flawlessly functioning internet have to criticise Google. For us as a publishing house the internet is not a threat but one of the greatest chances in recent decades.”